Paul Robeson penned a tribute to Stalin. Bob Marley played for Robert Mugabe. And Paul Simon and Queen performed in apartheid-era South Africa. Chart-topping musicians don’t just win Grammys and score endorsement deals – they get paid mega-bucks to perform in unsavory places for unsavory people. Usually no one pays attention.
But not last week. When the big paydays that R&B stars got from the Gaddafi family became public, critics lashed out faster than Naomi Campbell denying taking blood diamonds.
(click here to continue reading Beyonce and Mariah Carey sang for the Gaddafis. Now they’re changing their tune..)
Well, except all of the examples Justin Moyers cites were big deals. I had heard of all of them, and so did you too in all probability. Not to mention that these incidents took place in the quaint era before internet gossip rags, and before the 24 hour cable news networks set the agenda.
Let’s peek at how big of a deal, via the magic of Google.
- Paul Robeson and Stalin yields: about 149,000 hits
- Bob Marley and Robert Mugabe: about 47,000 hits
- Paul Simon in apartheid-era South Africa: about 382,000 hits
- Queen Plays in South Africa: about 15,600,000 hits, some1 of which are about the performing artists who performed as Queen.
So, on to the bigger point: should we criticize the artists who took money from dictators, and bankers, and other undesirables? Or the Medicis, or Bill Gates? Even if the artists are already wealthy, like Beyonce, Usher, Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, Lionel Richie, 50 Cent? I don’t like the music of any of these pop stars who took Libyan blood-for-oil dollars, but that isn’t relevant. Unless the National Endowment of the Arts suddenly becomes a pet project of the G.O.P.2, artists should be able to get paid without sniping from the chattering classes.Footnotes: